After rattling Egypt and Sudan over the Nile, Ethiopia, led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, is poised for a fresh clash with its Horn of Africa counterparts.

Mr Abiy’s recent declaration outlining Addis Ababa’s intention to secure Red Sea ports has ignited tensions, following the nation’s earlier disputes with Egypt and Sudan over the Nile.

Identifying sea access as a pivotal objective for the landlocked nation, Abiy issued a stark warning, indicating that a failure to secure this access could precipitate conflict in the future.

However, Ethiopia’s neighbors—Djibouti, Eritrea, and Somalia—have staunchly opposed Mr Abiy’s proposal, asserting their sovereignty as a non-negotiable principle.

Eritrea, characterising Mr Abiy’s statements as excessive, underscored the astonishment felt by concerned international observers.

In contrast, Somalia’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Omar, unequivocally asserted that his nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are sacrosanct and beyond discussion.

At the heart of Ethiopia’s ambitions is the Eritrean Red Sea port of Assab, a focal point for potential reclaiming.

This port, once under Addis Ababa’s control, shifted ownership with Eritrea’s independence over three decades ago.

Subsequently, the border closure between the two nations compelled Ethiopia to rely predominantly on neighboring Djibouti for its international trade.

This latest geopolitical maneuver comes on the heels of a protracted dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) along the Nile.

The $4.2 billion dam, a persistent source of tension, has been contested by Cairo, which views it as a threat to its survival due to reliance on Nile waters.

Amid calls from Egypt and Sudan for Ethiopia to halt the dam’s filling, based on a decade-old agreement, Addis Ababa proceeded without consensus.

Denying any intention to invade Eritrea, Abiy publicly asserted Ethiopia’s historical stance of non-aggression and expressed a willingness to engage in dialogue.

Proposing talks with neighboring nations, Abiy suggested a reciprocal arrangement wherein they could receive shares in the GERD in exchange for stakes in their respective ports.

The Prime Minister advocates for these discussions to be facilitated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional bloc comprising eight African countries.

As tensions escalate, the Horn of Africa finds itself at the crossroads of geopolitical dynamics with significant implications for regional stability.